In the fall of 2007 I sat around a table at Maddox's restaurant in Perry, Utah, with other members of the Inns of Court. We had the pleasure of listening to Judge Gordon Low speak on Lawyers as Wordsmiths. The program opened my eyes to something I'd never considered - literature was relevant to the practice of law.
As a young lawyer I was immediately drawn back to my undergraduate days at Weber State University where I received a double major in English and History. I loved to read! I read with pleasure through college and law school. Most of the time I considered it an opportunity to escape or relax from my studies or work load.
Judge Low changed my paradigm. He immediately challenged me and the lawyers present to consider what we were reading. He discussed great litigators and then produced their reading lists. Most iconic legal advocates had substantive and engaging lists. He shared how they would use the language of the humanities to weave power arguments before the court.
On the way home from Perry I considered my list. It wasn't too ambitious, primarily because I'd never considered it was supposed to be. Judge Low provided the group some example lists we could explore. The next day I was at my local library checking out audiobooks off the list.
These lists had an immediate impact on the way I saw my cases. I mediated on a regular basis. Most fiction progresses from no conflict, to conflict, climax, and concludes with resolution or tragedy. That looked like every case I worked with as a lawyer. I started to study in literature patterns of escalation, deescalation, and resolution of conflict.
Ultimately this led to October 2011, when the first literature and the law conference was held in Saint George, Utah. I was impressed with the various subjects and diversity of approaches to the subject. This likewise increased my scope of understanding of the topic. Since than the genre has only expanded for me. My book list continues to grow and I'm having a blast.
If you're not sure what you might read, there are heaps of lists available. For lawyers, here are links for Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.
Here are some lists found in the New York Times, Business Insider, Powell's, and the Independent.
If you have no idea where to start, Goodreads is one of my favorite hangouts. Lists, quotes, recommendations, and resources are plentiful.
The take away
I have presented throughout the country. Many lawyers don't read. It was a surprise. At a time when literature is more available than anytime before, it is easy to connect. In nearly every location I have presented on the subject, a lawyer may ask, "How is this relevant to the practice of law?" By the end of the conference they get it.
Lawyers deal in human commerce. There is not an area of the law that doesn't affect people. Literature, creative writing, quality non-fiction, and other works in the humanities all relate to the human experience and the law. It is wonderful to make the connections.